Garland writes a psychological drama inside the mind of a man who is, as the title suggests, in a coma. The narrator Carl begins a journey of recovery from the coma with some bizarre experiences where he contemplates whether he might have brain damage or amnesia. Eventually he realises he is still within the coma and everything occurs with the logic of dreams. Garland explores the fine line between reality and dreamland. We join the narrator in the confusion and also follow his journey as he tries to rise out of the coma. In the manner of computer quest games Carl navigates through aspects of his life to use as triggers to return to the waking world.
This short novel is easy to read with short chapters with cliff hangers. At times Garland’s writing is quite dark and even terrifying in the depths of the coma as he creates a sense of metal claustrophobia. The original woodblock illustrations which accompany each chapter and blank pages with the novel both add to this dramatic effect of the turbulent and difficult journey of trying to return to waking world.
Doctors may be able to relate better with patient’s experiences of being in a coma after reading this book. Although everyone is able to relate with this book as everyone dreams and can relate with the surprising speed with which we forget our dreams. The inadequacy of language in the waking world to truly understand another person’s dream is something I personally understand. You definitely won’t fall asleep while reading this as your dreams may get confused with Carl’s!